Saturday, 14 February 2015

The Trap of Stereotypical Characters

Let me describe a plot to you: a gorgeous female who either has a helpless personality or a completely badass one and a mischievous eye-candy, hulk of a man. The female character is heir to the throne but she doesn’t want the responsibility, or she’s a rebel. The man is her companion and they either met along the way and can’t stand one another or fall hopelessly for each other. There is competition for the female’s attention and affection from another male who later appears and a love-triangle develops leaving the female helpless to choose between the two potential suitors as she completes her quest in emotional agony……....
Does that vague plot sound familiar? That is because it is present in numerous Young Adult, Fantasy and Romance novels (with some variations but the gist stays the same). It sounds glamorous at first with the beautiful woman who is either a badass, sensual or helpless being aided by the man who Is often described as eye-candy and being unable to express his emotions. This glamour soon fades when one start to identify these stereotypical characters in other novels and one soon realises that the fiction world runs amok with them.
These typical character types have been moulded into our reading and writing culture so deeply that we come to think of them as preferable. The females must be described with unattainable beauty. The men must have uncommon bravery. Previous authors who moulded these characters rendered them in such a glamor that normal characters seem dull. Who wouldn’t want a heroine whose “slim, dark limbs, dazzling smile and sensuous nature” can make any man melt? Or how about a here whose body is “coved in tight ropes of muscle”?
What I’m trying to get at is this: We are objectifying the male and female characters, either accidentally or purposefully rendering them as desirable sex objects for the opposite sex. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but with the media already saturated with stereotypical images of men and women, you have to ask yourself if you really want to contribute to a culture that values looks over intellect. Apart from contributing to this media culture of appearance, the stereotypical character creates distance between the narrative and the reader. It is hard to identify with a character that fits the mould of glamour and perfection when you are an average Joe.
In all the novels I read over varied genres one thing is painfully clear: few authors give their characters average looks and hardly anyone makes their female leads chubby with stretch marks. The writing scene has become stale. The gorgeous has become mundane due to our obsession with glamour and beauty.
 How refreshing wouldn’t it be if the next novel you read contained characters to which you could relate?  So take a sobering look at the world around you and at what you are writing. We don’t need more stereotypes to add to the mediocrity available in current novels.


  1. I agree with you. In fact I have an idea for a YA novel that I've been rolling around in my head for awhile. The protagonist is a chubby teen girl with glasses who get bullied a lot in school. I want to write stories that appeal to the heart, not to the eyes.

    Fantastic blog, Sacha!

    1. I love that idea. You should definitely write it! And thank you for commenting ♥